Ball and Dagger - Political Ideology and the Democratic Ideal Notes

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Published on 13 Dec 2013
School
Western University
Department
Political Science
Course
Political Science 1020E
Professor
Ball and Dagger
Political Ideologies and the Democratic Ideal
Chapter 1: Ideology and Ideologies
- Jihad: a holy war, Muslim term to describe the 9/11 attack as an act of devotion against
Westerners, particularly American
- Condemned in the West as an appalling act of terrorism, this concerted attack was openly
applauded in certain Middle Eastern countries
- Ideologies: sets of ideas that shape people’s thinking and actions with regard to race,
nationality, the role and function of government, the relations between men and women,
human responsibility for the natural environment, and many other matters
- For most of the 20th century, the clash of three political ideologies liberalism, communism,
and fascism dominated world politics
- Ideologies try to shape and direct social change, they are dynamic in their attempt to shape
the ever-changing world
A working definition of “ideology”
- Refers to a set of ideas that try to link thought with action
- An ideology is a fairly coherent and comprehensive set of ideas that explains and evaluates
social conditions, helps people understand their place in society, and provides a program for
social and political action
- An ideology performs four functions for people who hold it:
1. Explanatory
2. Evaluative
3. Orientative
4. Programmatic
1. Explanatory: An ideology offers an explanation of why social, political, and economic
conditions are as they are, particularly in times of crisis
- Ideologues: people who try to persuade others to accept their ideology
2. Evaluation: An ideology supplies standards for evaluation social conditions.
- Provide standards or cues that help people assess, judge, and appraise social policies
and conditions so that they can decide whether those policies and conditions are
good, bad, or indifferent.
3. Orientation: An ideology supplies its adherent with an orientation and a sense of identity
who he/she is, the group (race, nation, sex, etc.) to which he/she belongs, and how he/she is
related to the rest of the world
4. Political Program: An ideology tells its followers what to do and how to do it. It performs a
programmatic or prescriptive function by setting out a general program of social and
political action.
- Every ideology provides a vision of the social and political world as it is, as it should be, and
in hopes of inspiring people to act to change or preserve their way of life
- Ideologies are not scientific: scientific theories are empirical in nature (concerned with
describing and explaining features of the world), not with prescribing what people ought to
do)
- Ideologies also carry implications that are normative: These are statement or propositions
prescribing how things should be or judging what is good and bad not only can live
- Democracy is distinguished from political ideologies
- Democracy offers no explanation of why things are the way they are, and only vaguely serves
the evaluative, orientative, or programmatic functions.
- Democracy is an ideal, not an ideology almost all political ideologies can claim to be
“democratic”
- Political ideologies draw on the works of great political philosophers as well as on scientific
theories to promote their causes, in a simplified and less abstract manner. This is because
the focus is on promoting action, accessibility, and inspiration to masses of ordinary people.
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- Religions are not political ideologies because they tend to focus more on the supernatural
and divine, instead of the here and present.
Human Nature and Freedom
Implicit in every ideology are two further features: (1) a set of basic beliefs about human nature and
(2) a conception of freedom
Human Nature
- Notions of human nature basic human drives, motivations, limitations, and possibilities
are present, at least implicitly, in every ideology.
o Ex. Classic/Contemporary liberal: human beings are “naturally” competitive and
acquisitive
o Ex. Communist: competitiveness and acquisitiveness are “unnatural” and nasty vices
nurtured by a deformed and deforming capitalist system- a system that warps
people whose “true” nature is to be cooperative and generous
- Competing conceptions of human nature are important to the understanding of political
ideologies because they play a large part in determining how each ideology performs the
four functions
Freedom
- Freedom is an essentially contested concept: what counts as being free is a matter of
controversy, because there is no one indisputable correct definition of “freedom”
- MacCallum: every conception of freedom includes three features: (A) an agent, (B) a barrier
or obstacle blocking the agent, and (C) a goal at which the agent aims
o Statement: A is (or is not) free from B to achieve, be, or become C.
o A agent- person or group that is or should be free being free means the freedom
to pursue a goal (C)
o B- barrier- no one is free to pursue a goal unless they are also free from particular
obstacles, barriers, or restraints (taking many forms such as walls, chains,
prejudices, poverty, etc.)
The Agent
- The agent can be an individual, a class, a group, a nation, a sex, a race, or even a species
- Examples: Liberals: freedom of the individual, Marxists: freedom of the working class, Italian
Fascists: freedom as a nation-state, Nazis: freedom of Arian race, Feminist: freedom of
gender
The Goal
- Different kinds of agents have different kind of goals
- Examples: Nazis: “purity” and supremacy of white race, Communist: achievement of a
classless communist society, Liberal: everyone live in their own way, without undue
interference from others, Feminist: society that recognizes and rewards the capacities and
worth of women
Obstacles
- Obstacles take a variety of forms: material or physical conditions; crime; or social, political
and economic ideas, ideologies, institutions, practices, traditions, and beliefs.
- Examples: Women: sexism and sexual discrimination, Communists: apathy and “false
consciousness” (failure of working class to see their real or objective interests) of the
workers and the economic and political power of the capitalist class, Nazis: Jews, blacks,
other “inferior” races
- Ideologies often view other ideologies as obstacles or barriers to be removed
- Revolutions often take form in the history of political ideologies when the individuals or
class or race or gender a political ideology takes to be its agent are not free to realize their
goals.
Ideology and Revolution
Revolution: A sweeping or fundamental transformation of a society. Originally used to describe an
attempt to restore or revolve back to a previous condition, the word acquired its present meaning
with the French Revolution
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- A sign of the French Revolution on the world is the creation of the political positions left,
right, or center. These terms come from the seating arrangements in the National Assembly
of the revolutionary period.
o Left wing favoured change
o Right wing resisted change
- Modern revolutionaries aim to overthrow old order at the roots and replace the whole social
order with something better “radical” comes from Latin radix meaning root
- Conservatives oppose the idea that human action can bring about great advances in society,
politics, and the quality of life pessimistic about the possibility of dramatic progress and
significant improvement in the quality of human life
- Enlightenment: The influential philosophical movement of the 18th century, especially in
France, that proclaimed the triumph of reason and science over custom and superstition
o First liberalism, and later all of the other political ideologies except conservatism, grew
out of a conviction that human life and society can and should be dramatically changed
o This conviction inspires people to lead or join movements to reshape and even
revolutionize their societies give rise to political ideologies
Nationalism and Anarchism
Nationalism: The belief that people fall into distinct groups, or nations, on the basis of a common
heritage or birth
Anarchism: A term from the Greed an archos, meaning “no rule.” Anarchists aim to abolish the state,
replacing political relations with cooperative or voluntary ones.
Nationalism
- Nation: group of people who in some sense share a common birth, can be separate from
citizenship
- Ardent nationalist: nations and citizenship should not be separated
- Nation-state: a sovereign, self-governing political unit that binds together and expresses the
feelings and needs of a single nation
Anarchism
- Government in nature is immoral and evil
- Governments force people to do things that they do not want to do pay taxes, fight in wars,
follow orders, etc.
- State is not a necessary evil
- Disagreements and differences among anarchists overwhelm the single point on which they
agree
o Some anarchists are capitalists and some are communists, some are violent and some
are peaceful
Chapter 3: Liberalism
- Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign. - Mill
- Hallmark of liberalism has been the attempt to promote individual liberty
- Two rival camps: “neoclassical” and “welfare” liberals
- “Liberal” did not enter the vocabulary of politics until early in the nineteenth century
Liberalism, Human Nature, and Freedom
- In the case of liberalism, the emphasis on individual liberty rests on a conception of human
beings as fundamentally rational individuals
- Liberals acknowledge that people do have passions and desires, but they maintain that
people also have the ability, through reason, to control and direct their desires.
- Liberals agree that self-interest is the primary motive for most people
- Liberals are inclined to regard competition as a natural and of the human condition
- Agent: The Individual
- Obstacles: Social and legal barriers to individual liberty, such as social customs, ties of feudal
dependence, and religious conformity, poverty, racial and sexual prejudice, ignorance,
illness, etc.
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Document Summary

Jihad: a holy war, muslim term to describe the 9/11 attack as an act of devotion against. Condemned in the west as an appalling act of terrorism, this concerted attack was openly applauded in certain middle eastern countries. Ideologies: sets of ideas that shape people"s thinking and actions with regard to race, nationality, the role and function of government, the relations between men and women, human responsibility for the natural environment, and many other matters. For most of the 20th century, the clash of three political ideologies liberalism, communism, and fascism dominated world politics. Ideologies try to shape and direct social change, they are dynamic in their attempt to shape the ever-changing world. Refers to a set of ideas that try to link thought with action. An ideology is a fairly coherent and comprehensive set of ideas that explains and evaluates social conditions, helps people understand their place in society, and provides a program for social and political action.